Shine more light on Trump’s conversation with leader of Ukraine

President Donald J. Trump speaks during a press conference being held on the sidelines of the opening of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. Photo Credit: EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/JASON SZENES

The president’s pleas for a foreign probe of a political rival show why the impeachment inquiry must go forward.

President Donald J. Trump speaks during a press conference being held on the sidelines of the opening of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.
President Donald J. Trump speaks during a press conference being held on the sidelines of the opening of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

It is clear now that the impeachment inquiry announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must go forward. Too much smoke is billowing from  President Donald Trump’s call to Ukraine’s president for Congress not to take a thorough look at the underlying fire.

The memorandum released Wednesday summarizing  a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Vlodoymyr Zelensky is very concerning.   More details are required to put the pieces together. More context is needed to understand the dialogue between the two men. The inquiry should be careful, rigorous and as expeditious as possible. Democrats should not overreach. Republicans should not hide their heads in the sand. Both should want the facts to come out, and then have the courage to act on them, wherever they lead.

More than 90 GOP House members joined most every Democrat in the chamber in a vote Wednesday to demand that the Trump administration release the intelligence official’s whistleblower complaint that triggered the Ukrainian controversy. The day before, Senate Republicans and Democrats voted unanimously to demand that Trump release the complaint.

What they got Wednesday was the memo summarizing  the Trump-Zelensky call. It shows that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former vice president and possible 2020 election foe Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and that Trump encouraged Zelensky to work with U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in that effort. Trump made repeated references to how good the United States has been to Ukraine, claiming that Ukraine has not been "reciprocal," and then asking Zelensky for a "favor."  Trump doesn’t say directly that his administration’s delay in delivering foreign aid is connected to the favor, but no connection is needed. A U.S. president asking a foreign country to investigate a political foe, essentially to interfere in our elections,  meets the threshold of an impeachable offense.

The memo paints a disturbing picture of Trump’s view of his attorney general.  Has the president been pressuring Barr to investigate Biden? Why would Barr get involved in a probe in a foreign country? Was Trump’s involvement of Barr in the Ukraine matter the reason the Justice Department refused to allow the whistleblower’s complaint to go to Congress? The transcript compromises Barr and requires him to recuse himself from any decision involving the whistleblower’s complaint.

As for Giuliani, was he an emissary of the State Department, as he claims, when he pressured Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens? If so, that’s an abuse of presidential power. Giuliani must be brought to Capitol Hill, too. Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire is scheduled to testify Thursday before Congress about the whistleblower complaint and whether it was suppressed. That’s essential. The whistleblower should testify, too.

There are legitimate questions here about presidential conduct and government process, questions that go to the foundations of our nation and should concern everyone. An impeachment inquiry, properly done, would put incontrovertible facts into the public domain. That’s something everyone should welcome, on both sides of our partisan divide. 

The Editorial Board